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Casino shoots to open Feb. 1

The $440 million del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre, Seneca County, is on track to open Feb. 1, its leaders said this week. The first employees have been hired with plans to add more than 1,000 workers beginning by year-end.

Jeff Babinski, executive vice president and general manager, said a mild winter has helped with construction. Plans call for a 425,000-square-foot building and a 300,000-square-foot parking garage.

When the doors open, patrons will have access to the gaming operations, restaurants and bars, and a 2,500-seat entertainment venue. The six-floor, 205-room hotel, as well as a roughly 12,000-square-foot spa, will open within six months after that, he said.

Babinski said the site, some 50 miles southeast of Rochester off Thruway Exit 41, will help drive economic growth in the region.

“It’s a beautiful resort that will bring people to the region,” he said.

The project is creating 1,800 construction jobs and 1,800 permanent jobs. Developers estimate it will generate more than $90 million annually for state and local governments.

Del Lago, which means “of the lake” in Italian, is being developed by Scottsville firm Wilmorite Management Group LLC and Peninsula Pacific, a Los Angeles-based investment manager.

Babinski was hired in May. He has more than 25 years of industry experience. Babinski, who now lives in Canandaigua, most recently managed all gaming and non-gaming departments for Tropicana Entertainment Inc.’s Lumiere Place Casino & Hotels in St. Louis. Prior to that, he was general manager and director of marketing at Boomtown Casino & Hotel in Reno, Nev.

A half-dozen other employees have been hired, including Juris Basens, senior vice president and assistant general manager. Key personnel roles will continue to be filled, followed by the hiring of some 480 people who will be trained to run the table games. Successful training will be required and should begin this fall, Babinski said.

Additional hiring to staff other parts of the casino and resort will take place from November through January, he said.

Among the offerings at del Lago will be 2,000 slot machines and 85 gaming tables, including 10 poker tables.

Among its food offerings will be Portico, an upscale Italian restaurant, and the Farmer’s Market Buffet, featuring locally sourced produce, fruits, dairy products and meats.

An entertainment venue, the Vine, will serve as a separate bar area as well as a location for regional and national entertainment acts. Centrifico is a bar/lounge area on the gaming floor.

The site also will feature Savor New York, a retail outlet where local vendors will bring the Finger Lakes region to del Lago patrons with local fruits, cheeses, baked goods, wines and beers, and other area specialties.

The resort was awarded a state casino license in December after a roughly two-year process for the developer that included seeking project approvals and facing litigation delays.

Del Lago was one of three casinos granted licenses across the state —along with Rivers in Schenectady and Montreign Resort Casino in the Catskills. Since then, Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier has received preliminary approval from the state gaming commission for an expansion project that includes full gaming there.

State legislation passed in July 2013 called for up to four casinos in Upstate New York, with at least one—and no more than two—in the eastern Southern Tier, the Capital District and the Catskills/Hudson Valley area.

Selections were based in part on the number of jobs to be created, the amount of capital investment, revenue generated, and development and integration with regional tourism, state officials said.

Del Lago has faced opposition and litigation, largely from a citizens’ group called Casino Free Tyre that has questioned the impact the project will have on the rural community. There have been roughly a half-dozen lawsuits related to the project since 2014 and one still pending.

Additional opposition has come from Turning Stone Casino Resort in Verona, Oneida County, run by the Oneida Indian Nation and from Delaware North Co. Inc., the owners of Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in Farmington, Ontario County.

Proponents believe del Lago will bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to an economically depressed area and help jump-start additional development there. Town and county officials have shown support for the project.

Among the benefits of del Lago, they say, is a tax reduction for county residents. Tyre and Seneca County will each receive annual payments of $6.5 million. In addition, an estimated $30 million will be spent to market the Finger Lakes region and an estimated 34,000 annual visitors are projected to visit the region.

The opponents’ concerns include increased traffic, noise and pollution and the effect the casino/resort would have on the rural community.

In addition to the on-site work, the developers are widening the portion of Route 414 that leads to the resort and are making additional infrastructure improvements on nearby roads, Babinski said. Plans are in the works to add another toll station at the Thruway interchange, he added.

Despite the opposition, Babinski said his focus is on getting del Lago off the ground.

“Our focus is on creating a venue that gives the best upstate has to offer,” he said.

6/3/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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